Readers Pick the Hottest Boats They’ve Ever Seen

By Kevin Spaise
Featured in Hot Boat Magazine
August 1997
Photo and Graphic by Hot Boat Magazine

Howard Arneson 46’ Turbine Powered Skater

Howard Arneson is the marine industry’s undisputed king of the turbine engine, which by all accounts is the ultimate hot-boating power plant. Commonly used in sustained, high-demand, industrial applications (log-toting helicopters, etc.), the turbine generates vast amounts of horsepower without absorbing undue water-a prescription for sustained, open-water excellence.

His new 46-foot Skater may be the most amazing recreational boat ever built. It surpasses even the canopied 40-foot Skater that turned our readers’ heads a few years back, which left a deep, lasting impression on our readership.

Though this marks the first appearance of the 46-footer in Hot Boat, we feel justified in taking liberties in naming it a reader’s favorite, based on your response to previous Arneson turbine offerings.

It was an open-cockpit, 32-foot skater that first captured the imagination of Hot Boat’s readership. Arneson used it to shatter the elapsed time record between New Orleans and St. Louis, averaging more than 82 miles an hour (including fuel stops) in breaking the record by an astounding seven hours plus. He covered the 1,039 miles in12 hours 40 minutes, stopping only to fuel.

The 32’s Hot Boat cover appearance was followed by a firsthand ride-along, during which Arneson took me for a raucous, 140-mph blast through the San Francisco Bay. Running at an easy-breathing 80% power, the 32-footer cruised at 100-plus mph, sometimes for hours on end, with negligible wear to its whirring internals. The boat was followed by a canopied 40-footer, which was once again embraced by our readership. The Skater became the fastest offshore boat ever run through the American Power Boat Association speed traps, compiling a two-way average of 160.184 miles per hour at the kilos, behind the motivation of any incredible, 2,200-horse turbine engine. Its many public appearances (most for charity) also endeared its willing owners to throngs of curious performance enthusiasts. Arneson became famous for his patented, fire breathing belches while idle-a mode tapped by depressing the "Show Biz" button on the Skater’s dash.

Arneson had run the 40-footer as fast as 170 miles and hour before the Skater found a new home, in the appreciative hands of Oklahoma hot-boater Danny Aknkey.

The new 46-footer seemed a natural progression, and Arneson describes it as "truly and amazing boat"-telling words, given his frame of reference. After running the boat for a year, Arneson is in the midst of an ambitious reconfiguration, which will replace its 2,200-horse Russian turbine with a 4,500-horse Lycoming. "It ran 140, and that was sort of a step backward,’ said Arneson, who had to build a new gearcase and chassis section and to adapt a V-drive system for its use. "We expect to see speeds of 180." Arneson has built 14 turbine boats in all since, "retiring from the marine business a few years back (he’s the creator of the Arneson Surface Drive-a design ultimately absorbed by MerCruiser). They’re scattered across the world, and their owners include Copeland, Bill Bennett and other performance-boating notables.

Just like his fire-breathing creations, Arneson remains and industry favorite and an excellent reader’s choice.

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